Edward chose John Balliol, the one who had the best right; but he made him understand that, as overlord, he meant to see that as good order was kept in Scotland as in England. Now, the English kings had never meddled with Scottish affairs before, and the Scots were furious at finding that he did so. They said it was insulting them and their king; and poor Balliol did not know what to do among them, but let them defy Edward in his name. This brought Edward and his army to Scotland. The strong places were taken and filled with English soldiers, and Balliol was made prisoner, adjudged to have rebelled against his lord and forfeited his kingdom, and was sent away to France.
Edward thought it would be much better for the whole country to join Scotland to England, and rule it himself. And so, no doubt, it would have been; but many Scots were not willing,—and in spite of all the care he could take, the soldiers who guarded his castles often behaved shamefully to the people round them. One gentleman, named William Wallace, whose home had been broken up by some soldiers, fled to the woods and hills, and drew so many Scots round him that he had quite an army. There was a great fight at the Bridge of Stirling; the English governors were beaten, and Wallace led his men over the border into Northumberland, where they plundered and burnt wherever they went, in revenge for what had been done in Scotland.
Edward gathered his forces and came to Scotland. The army that Wallace had drawn together could not stand before him, but was defeated at Falkirk, and Wallace had to take to the woods. Edward promised pardon to all who would submit—and almost all did; but Wallace still lurked in the hills, till one of his own countrymen betrayed him to the English, when he was sent to London, and put to death.
All seemed quieted, and English garrisons—that is, guarding soldiers —were in all the Scottish towns and castles, when, suddenly, Robert Bruce, one of the half English, half Scottish nobles between whom Edward had judged, ran away from the English court, with his horse’s shoes put on backwards. The next thing that was heard of him was, that he had quarreled with one of his cousins in the church at Dumfries, and stabbed him to the heart, and then had gone to Scone and had been crowned King of Scotland.
Edward was bitterly angry now. He sent on an army to deal unsparingly with the rising, and set out to follow with his son, now grown to man’s estate. Crueller things than he had ever allowed before were done to the places where Robert Bruce had been acknowledged as king, and his friends were hung as traitors wherever they were found; but Bruce himself could not be caught. He was living a wild life among the lakes and hills; and Edward, who was an old man now, had been taken so ill at Carlisle, that he could not come on to keep his own strict rule among his men. All the winter he lay sick there; and in the spring he heard that Bruce, whom he thought quite crushed, had suddenly burst upon the English, defeated them, and was gathering strength every day.